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Originally published at http://suite101.com
No one can agree on how long it’s been, but it’s generally accepted that the Anthrax camp has been in an awkward spot for quite some time. Ever since classic vocalist Joey Belladonna left the band in the early 90s, they’ve gone through a long wave of commercial obscurity and confusingly constant lead singer switches. Originally intended for a 2009 release, Worship Music is the band’s first album since We’ve Come For You All came out in 2003. It is also the first Anthrax release to feature Belladonna since 1990’s Persistence of Time due to the rather random sacking of touring vocalist Dan Nelson and noncommittal stance of other iconic singer John Bush.
Fans who are expecting the second coming of Spreading the Disease or Among the Living are sure to be disappointed for this effort has very little in common with either of those classics. Instead we’ve got a release that probably wouldn’t have sounded too out of place if it had come out between Persistence of Time and Sound of White Noise. As someone who is only familiar with a handful of the songs Anthrax released with Bush, the rather modern production and larger focus on grooves do give this effort a rather similar feel to that era. Fortunately there are a few old elements such as the signature gang vocals ensuring that no one will confuse this for being some other band.
And with all of the history there is to consider, it is nice to see the band showcase some solid chemistry. The guitars in particular are aided by the production and have a sharp and dark tone that recalls the previously mentioned Persistence of Time. Despite Belladonna still feeling like the odd one out in terms of the overall band dynamic, his vocal contributions are quite strong and fit in well with the songs on display. He has inevitably lost a bit of his upper range with age but makes up for it with some impressive harmonies and contrasts. In a way, he brings to mind a less tired Geoff Tate and may be one of the best vocalists left from the old thrash era!
Unfortunately, the rhythm section doesn’t stand out quite as often as before and seems to get caught in the mix throughout. Fortunately there are some exceptions as drummer Charlie Benante provides some amazing blasting on “Earth On Hell” and “Revolution Screams” while bassist Frank Bello has a brief solo on “Judas Priest” and gives “I’m Alive” a particularly heavy feel.
When taking out the random interludes and looking at the album on a songwriting basis, it appears to have a set cycle of sorts as it starts out fast and then goes into more mid-tempo tracks. This move seems to work in the album’s favor as it shows off the band’s various styles while making sure everything fits in and demonstrating an eye for memorable hooks.
It goes without saying that the opening three songs were among the first singles released for they do provide some great bursts of energy. “Earth On Hell” features some powerful drumming and strong verse/chorus transitions, “The Devil You Know” works as a rocking cross between “Keep It In The Family” and "Caught In A Mosh” while “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t” recycles the old “Gridlock” riff to surprisingly great effect.
From there, the pace goes a bit more mid-tempo though the next few songs show some nice variety in themselves. “I’m Alive” serves as a catchy anthem, “In The End” is a dramatic tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell, and “The Giant” is a catchy number with some solid vocal trade-offs in the verses and some infectious layering in the chorus.
The last four original songs seem to be a mix between the first five while not fully committing to either side. A song called “Judas Priest” would suggest a much faster tempo than the one on here, but it and “Crawl” do feature more excellent vocal acrobatics. In addition, “The Constant” seems to hint at a faster tempo while “Revolution Screams” features some solid groove-influence riffs.
Closing things out is a cover version of “New Noise” by the Refused. While I've only heard the original once or twice at the moment, this does manage to be another solid Anthrax cover thanks to more great transitions and vocal work. In this sense, it isn’t too out of place with everything else on here though one does wonder why they decided to make it a hidden track. At least they didn’t go with the cover of Alice in Chains’ “We Die Young” that was rumored at one point. That just sounds wrong on so many levels…
If you’re looking to hear a thrash metal group from the old guard put on a brutal show that rivals the material from their younger days, then you might want to look into Overkill’s “Ironbound.” Some may continue to hope for a more old school sounding record but this release seems to serve as a compromise of sorts between those days and more recent material. In this sense, Worship Music is a pretty successful effort as it employs some strong songwriting techniques and great musical performances. And if this effort and the recent performances of “Only” are anything to go by, things might not have been too different if Belladonna had just stuck around the entire time. It’s certainly hard to imagine what this would’ve sounded like if Nelson had been on it…
“The Devil You Know”
“Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t”
USA's Anthrax, a legendary band, pioneers of the East Coast thrash movement in the early 80's and part of the "Big 4", which also includes three other legendary bands Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica. While maybe not as huge today as they were back in the 80's and 90's, Anthrax rose to metal stardom early with albums such as 'Spreading the Disease' and 'Among the Living'.
Vocalist Joey Belladonna, who joined the band in 1984, became the face of Anthrax (as well as guitarist Scott Ian) and enjoyed the band's more fruitful years before being unexpectedly fired from the band in 1992.
Anthrax recruited John Bush from Armored Saint and then began the second evolution of the band; moving away from the shrinking thrash metal scene and delving into a more groove/heavy metal style. Albums of note include 'Sound of White Noise' (1993) and 'Volume 8- The Threat is Real' (1998), Anthrax really re-invented themselves during that period.
The band had numerous label problems in the mid to late 90's which ultimately took a toll on everyone involved. By 2001 Anthrax found a new home with Nuclear Blast (Europe) and released 'We've Come for You All' in 2003. From there came instability in the line-up (that I like to call the Van Halen syndrome) which saw both bassist Frank Bello and guitarist Rob Caggiano leave the band (Bello returned the following year), while John Bush was ousted in favour of a reunion with Joey Belladonna and guitarist Dan Spitz. For the next few years this revolving door continued between the abovementioned members - Belladonna out, Bush back in, Spitz out and Caggiano back in; and in between a new vocalist Dan Nelson would come and go and still no new material produced in almost seven years. The sad soap opera had one final twist in 2010, when once again Belladonna reunited with Anthrax and John Bush was again shown the exit.
That brings us to now and finally after eight years of instability, playing favourites and other bullshit, Anthrax have released a new album, entitled 'Worship Music'. Firstly there's a bit of nostalgia in the air, hearing Joey Belladonna's untarnished voice on an Anthrax album for the first time in 21 years and I must say that he's still got it after all this time. The main difference between Joey and John Bush is that Belladonna is far more melodic and sings at a higher pitch. On 'Worship Music', Belladonna's vocals are quite melodic, more matured but overall much like where he left off from 'Persistence of Time'; and some of the songs are a reflection of his vocals, containing more melody than ever before.
Sound-wise, Anthrax have quite a different mix thrown to please the fans of both their 80's thrash and 90's groove/traditional metal eras. While they still have their goofy side incorporated somewhat into their music and lyrics, for the most part the song-writing and perception is fairly serious, much like how they performed on 1993's 'Sound Of White Noise' album. The opening speedy and gritty track "Earth on Hell" is very much old school Anthrax, in which the song could have slotted in easily on their 'State of Euphoria' album, while the impressive "Fight 'Em Til You Can't" could have come from either 'Spreading The Disease' or 'Fistful of Metal'.
As usual we get nothing short of greatness from versatile rhythm guitarist and original member Scott Ian, and arguably one of the best drummers in the world, Charlie Benante. Anthrax's next current member after Belladonna, guitarist Rob Caggiano also proves to be worth his weight in gold, with a very solid, energetic and professional performance that is full of hard groove and thrash-esque riffs and excellent solos.
The remainder of the album sits somewhere between the sounds delivered from albums such as 'Stomp 442' up to their previous effort (which seems like an eternity ago) 'We've Come for You All', but in a far more matured and polished fashion. Those jam shorts and the antics the guys used to wear and get up to have finally been locked away and burned on the pyre; this is Anthrax all grown up and it sounds good. By far the best track on the CD has to be the brilliant and infectious "The Devil You Know", just for its supreme guitar riffs and creativeness; overall it's almost the perfect metal song and easily one of Anthrax's best in their entire discography. Other tracks that makes 'Worship Music' a very good but not utterly fantastic album would be the bold and purposeful "I'm Alive", the melodic and emotional "In the End", the respectable homage to "Judas Priest" and the groove-infused head beater "The Constant".
Has 'Worship Music' been worth the 8 year wait? Well to die hard Anthrax fans, the answer would be a strong hell yes, as the album is very solid and for the most part quite entertaining and diverse. Any fans from the beginning who have since moved on should find that this release may rekindle their interest in the 'Thrax, while thrashheads of old will also find it hard to resist the new album. So for the moment, Anthrax have a stable line up, so let's hope it stays that way and another album finds its way to our ears in the next few years. A great, matured and honourable effort from the boys that I personally thought they could not achieve, but have been pleasantly surprised.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
For the better part of 20 years, from the end of their 80s era and early 90s stint with Belladonna still in the fold up until just recently, Anthrax had solidified their status as the ultimate example of how far a band can tumble down the nu-metal ravine. After the somewhat commercialized yet still hard thrashing goodness that were “State Of Euphoria” and “Persistence Of Time”, this band was eventually relegated to a Scott Ian solo project with John Bush and the rest along for the ride, hopping onto every stupid trend with legs in the billboard charts. Coherence was not to be found, as former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush went back and forth between being a lackluster Layne Staley impersonator to a god awful Phil Anselmo knockoff, surrounded by a barrage of dumbass ideas that were more suited to the likes of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, two horrid abominations that Anthrax themselves had unintentionally influenced years prior through a handful of joke songs mixing metal and rap music.
To sum it all up, Anthrax took the biggest plunge of all the Big 4 (excluding Metallica’s post 2001 debacles and present insult to art “Lulu”), thus making any chance at metallic relevance almost 100% contingent on a complete reversal of their recent style choices. The beginnings of this were moving into the realm of possibility during a short-lived reunion with Belladonna back in 2005 that managed to treat the fans to a powerhouse of a live album and DVD. But alas, like a bad habit, the band split with their 80s mainstay vocalist and were ready to plunge back into marketable mediocrity by recruiting a hack, nobody, generic screamer in Dan Nelson, who few in the metal world probably ever have heard of, let alone accept. While it was during this time period that much of what became “Worship Music” was composed, the live renditions of these songs were utter garbage that even Trivium would be apt to avoid releasing, and it does speak a little bit to the slightly confused tendencies of some of the music found on here.
But after the unfortunate passing of metal god and legend Ronnie James Dio and a corresponding memorial concert, Belladonna found himself back in the fold and suddenly Scott Ian found the discipline to actually get his ass into the studio and put out an album. With this came the 2011 reunion album “Worship Music”, perhaps one of better genre confused thrash metal albums to ever be released. Its contents can be likened to a number of albums put out both by Anthrax during their latter 80s period, as well as a few numbers from the forgettable 90s Anthrax era and Belladonna’s slightly better solo work. And yet it finds itself working well, in spite of some modern groove metal pitfalls, because of the superior musicianship of the collective whole. Joey’s vocals and Scott’s riffs have a natural synchronicity to them that was never achieved after the former was kicked out of the band, and this endures despite Dan Spitz not being present (though Rob Caggiano sounds remarkably similar to the band’s original fret board speeder).
The initial impression left by this album seems to lend itself to a return to the “Persistence Of Time” paradigm, with occasional instrumental interludes somewhat resembling classical music ditties the band occasionally played around with around the same time (the cello intro of “Be All, End All” comes to mind). The three lead off songs (two of which were singles) play up the thrash element something fierce and in the usual, streamlined fashion Anthrax has always dealt in, with “Earth On Hell” being the most vicious and chaotic (though “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t” rides close behind). All of these songs feature punishing riffs, fancy lead work, soaring vocal brilliance and gang choruses aplenty, all but forcing the listener to acknowledge the inevitable resurgence to greatness going on.
Be all this as it may, some pretty obvious deviations in style loom soon after this initial trilogy of thrash ownage, ranging from slowed down metal to semi-Pantera infused fluff that hints back to some of this band’s 90s disasters. The only outright instance of failure is the hypnotic, dumbed down ode to “Far Beyond Driven” with a hint of Alice In Chains that is “Crawl”, which sounds like it came right off of Belladonna’s throw away 2nd solo album meets a really poor version of something from “Sound Of White Noise” with a decent guitar solo as the only saving grace. A few other songs such as “I’m Alive” and “The Constant” are markedly better, playing up more of a modern sound with a slight USPM character to the riff work. None of it quite breaks back into thrash metal territory, but it’s still quite good and showcases the raw talent of Belladonna to add luster to what is otherwise tainted ore.
While “Worship Music” may not be fully passable as a pure thrash metal album, it is such a long overdue change in direction for the better that it’s hard to really care. Suffice to say, aside from Slayer, who have remained pretty loyal to their root style (though with mixed results at times), the media created Big 4 have never really been the most stylistically consistent examples of thrash metal, especially when compared to bands that didn’t last long past the 80s such as Dark Angel and Vio-Lence. Truth be told, it could be argued that “Among The Living”, which was Anthrax’s purest thrash album, was hampered by the utter sameness of its contents. There’s a sort of happy middle ground that Anthrax had going after said 1987 breakthrough album, and this is closer to it than not. If nothing else, this band is poised to do better still on future albums should they happen, especially if this lineup can stand to keep itself together, lord willing.
I’m a bit biased when it comes to Anthrax. I was thirteen years old when the John Bush-fronted Sound of White Noise came out, and to this day it remains one of my all time favorite metal albums. While that recording marked a darker, more serious turn for the New York-based quintet, I still began to think of them as the “fun” thrash band as I explored their back catalogue. Here was a band that penned odes to Judge Dredd (“I Am the Law”) and Randall Flagg (“Among the Living”), covered new waver Joe Jackson (“Got the Time”), duetted with Chuck D (“Bring the Noise”) and even penned their own humorous take on rap metal (“I’m the Man”). Can you imagine those stuffed shirts in Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer doing anything like that? More than the other members of The Big Four, Anthrax struck me as the band that wasn’t afraid to follow their own muse and give the heavy metal rule book the finger. There was (and still is) something genuinely endearing about their approach.
But it wasn’t easy to keep up with Anthrax after Sound of White Noise. Stomp 442 and Volume 8 – The Threat is Real came and went, causing nary a blip on my metal radar, and I didn’t catch back up with the band until 2003′s We’ve Come for You All, a respectable album that seemed to signal a return to prominence. What followed instead was an album of rushed sounding re-recordings (The Greater of Two Evils) and a slew of live and compilation releases, not exactly the best way to capitalize on a five year layoff between albums. Then there was the infamous singer fiasco involving Bush, Joey Belladonna, Dan Nelson even Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor… it’s a wonder Neil Turbin didn’t get thrown in the mix at some point. This, combined with a dearth of new material put Anthrax in danger of turning into a joke.
Fast forward to 2011 and Anthrax is anything but a punch-line. Fully reunited with definitive vocalist Belladonna and riding a wave of renewed interest thanks to a slew of Big Four shows at various enormo-domes around the world, the band has unleashed Worship Music, their strongest album since Sound of White Noise and a damn fine slab of molten metal that recalls the strongest aspects of each era of the band while at the same time ushering the next phase of Anthrax’s musical evolution.
Nevermind the cello intro, because “Earth on Hell” is Worship Music‘s real opening track, a hammering declaration of badass-ness if ever there was one in the mold of classic Anthrax. The band grabs you by the throat from the get-go and doesn’t let up for the song’s ferocious three minute and ten second duration. Up next is “The Devil You Know”, another out-and-out banger that keeps the momentum going and is one of the catchiest tunes the band has ever written. I was skeptical of “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” when I first heard it, but I must say that the the band’s ode to the zombie apocalypse works great in the context of the album and sounds a hell of a lot better on CD than on the crappy YouTube clip that was making the rounds earlier this year. After this trifecta of ripping tunes, Worship Music delves into groove-laden, mid-paced territory that recalls the John Bush era. Many of these tracks, such as the epic “Judas Priest” the catchy/moody “Crawl” and the thrashy “The Giant” work extremely well, while “In The End” and “The Constant” come off as enjoyable but ultimately skippable filler. The good on Worship Music far outweighs the bad and the album as a whole sounds surprisingly fresh in spite of its long gestation period.
As to be expected the musicianship throughout the album is top notch. Charlie Benante has always been one of my favorite drummers, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here, anchoring Anthrax’s rhythm section with the same pounding authority he has brought to the band since ’83. Scott Ian’s ultra-crunchy rhythm guitar is still the defining characteristic at the band’s core and if anything it sounds that much more crushing on Worship Music thanks to co-guitarist Rob Caggiano’s thoroughly modern but not overly slick production job. Of course, the wild card in the Anthrax equation is Joey Belladonna, who hadn’t recorded with the band since 1990 prior to Worship Music. Belladonna’s vocals sound fantastic here and although he doesn’t hit the piercing highs of the band’s back catalogue, it’s obvious that he hasn’t lost a bit of his range. In fact, I’d argue that his voice is more full and commanding now than it was a decade ago.
And so there you have it. Anthrax has returned to the fold with an album they can be proud of, an album that largely shits all over anything the other members of The Big Four have released in the past several years, and most importantly an album that long suffering fans such as myself can revel in. By making the album they wanted to make and demonstrating full commitment to moving their music forward instead of pandering to Big Four/retro thrash nostalgia, they’ve proven that they’re still the band I loved as a teenager, marching to beat of their own slightly warped drummer. With Worship Music, Anthrax are back, bad and metal thrashing mad.
originally written for http://thatshowkidsdie.com
The day I saw Anthrax's logo had reverted to it's old style (where the 'r' covers the 'n', 't' and 'h'), I spent the week trying to convince my friends that this was the sign we'd been waiting for: Joey Belladonna had returned. Of course, they dismissed it as merely a resurrection of their classic logo for the upcoming Big Four shows, and with good reason too: John Bush had only just finished touring with the band less than a year before, which came just after Dan Nelson (who?) was kicked from the band for yet unexplained reasons (apparently Scott and Charlie made up a rumour that he was ill, but who knows?). Regardless, I bought my Sonisphere ticket, knowing I'd end up seeing Bush. They'd play a set of songs not designed for Bush's vocals, and I'd have to live with that. But then the announcement came. Belladonna was back. Belladonna would be singing for the band during the Big Four shows, at the UK Sonisphere festival. The irony of it all was that a month before the announcement, a friend and I had written a list of bands we'd want to see before we die, and a smaller list of bands we could only dream of seeing. The second list - amongst 'The Doors with Jim Morrison' and 'Jello Biafra fronting Dead Kennedys' - included 'Anthrax with Joey Belladonna'.
And so, 3 years after it was supposed to come out, 'Worship Music' is unleashed on the world. Ever since Joey was announced as the singer, most of us were expecting the band to return to thrash metal and all it's glory. But hearing the two singles, 'Fight Em Till You Can't and 'The Devil You Know', I realised the band is attempting something different. And are succeeding at it.
The first thing I noticed is how easily I got hooked on the songs. Much like when I listened to 'Rust In Peace' or 'South of Heaven' for the first time, everything just flows, just makes sense. Almost all the songs have terrific, memorable choruses, to a point where I can't really name any stand outs. Stylistically each track seems to pick up from where that brilliant second half of 'Think About An End' and 1991's 'Belly Of The Beast' left off. Chugging rhythms and hooky melodies are the name of the game, and god does it sound good.
'Worship Music' combines elements of thrash, groove, feel good heavy metal and modern metal in to a colourful pot of headbanging honey. 'Earth On Hell' is the only pure bred thrasher on here, with lyrics spat out with confidence by Belladonna, complex drumming by Charlie and a short but electric solo from Rob. 'I'm Alive' is a fun, headbanging comic book tale of vengence, with a Dropkick Murphys-esque intro and perfectly matched vocals, making it probably the crowning moment of side one. It combines the great digestibility of 'The Devil You Know' and the raw energy of 'Fight'em 'Til You Can't' to produce a vibrant classic, and definately something to look forward to live. 'Judas Priest' is perhaps the heaviest song on here, and definately Charlie Benante's best performance of the album. 'Judas...' is loaded with melody, driven by a typical Anthrax groove, and features this intense breakdown which a few of us first heard briefly on the band's Facebook page many months ago. It crushes rhythms that the band hasn't crushed before, and stands as a fitting tribute to the Metal Gods themselves better than any cover could do. 'The Constant' and 'The Giant' have been called filler, but blow me down if those songs are any less catchy, any less satisfying than the other songs. Both choruses got stuck in my head since I first gave the album a spin, and out of sheer melody too rather than because of a cheap vocal hook. Anthrax are unlikely to perform them live, but for the time being they sound perfect in my car.
Scott's riffs are these fairly simple but effective: grooving here, thrashing there, overdubbing some extra guitars to add extra flavour (the intro of Dimebag and Dio tribute 'In The End', the harpsichord sounding guitars of 'The Constant'). Rob's solos are the most 'Anthrax' sounding solos since 'Persistence of Time', combining fast tremelo picking, tapping and more as the best showcase of his talents to date. Frankie gives a modest performance, rarely given any limelight besides the breakdowns of 'Judas Priest' and 'Earth On Hell'. Charlie rips the drumming up, doing a better job than ever before, with 'Judas Priest' being one of my favourite performances by the guy, especially considering the previously mentioned breakdown.
And finally, the big one. Belladonna adds an extra energy to the songs, such extra bite, I couldn't ever imagine these songs being sung by anyone else. He might not sound like his 80's self, but he hasn't changed much since that awesome 'Ball of Confusion' cover in 1999. At this point, I'm not sure Bush (much love and respect to the man) could hold all the melodies Joey presents us with here, and I doubt Dan Nelson's pub thug vocals could do much better. He even makes the Refused hardcore classic 'New Noise' his own, the song's usual screaming replaced with the warmth of his melodic voice. And even if Scott and Charlie's lyrics don't always do Joey favours ('In The End' 's second half is weak in my opinion), I really can't wait see these songs live with Belladonna at the front of the band, where he belongs.
This is instantly listenable stuff, which doesn't slack on instrumentation or heaviness. It is pure party-appropriate heavy metal, with tongue in cheek lyrics just like the old days, and their best effort since 'Sound of White Noise' and 'Persistence of Time'. This is a great album to play in the car or at metal clubs, and in my opinion, even if it lacks on thrash, the best of the Big Four's newest offerings by far ('Death Magnetic', 'Endgame' and 'World Painted Blood'). Worship metal? Worship Anthrax? Worship Music.
Eight years after their last output and after several strange line-up changes, Anthrax are finally back and underline their reputation and status as one of the big four of the American thrash metal bands. Worship Music sounds fresh and diversified and mixes the band's thrash roots with some modern influences and experiments.
One of the main strengths of the band is that they deliver many great anthems on this record that might as well kill it on stage. Two perfect examples are the already published energizing singles "Fight'Em Til You Can't" as well as "The Devil You Know" that mix thrash influenced verses with catchy, modern and melodic choruses. These two tracks are though probably the heaviest ones apart of the opener “Earth On Hell”. The rest of the album looks a little bit different.
Anthrax also deliver some great epic experiments as the slow and atmospheric grower "In The End" that convinces with its melancholic bell sounds. One might also mention the epic "Judas Priest" where not only the vocals and guitars can convince but even the bass and drums that get some more space to breathe here. There are also the calm and modern sounds of "Crawl" that has some acoustic guitar and string passages and could also play on the radio along with bands like Nickelback, Godsmack or Puddle Of Mudd but has more depth and atmosphere than any of the mentioned bands. Even if this fact might not please to closed minded metal maniacs, many songs here have some great commercial potential with several addicting choruses like the radio friendly rocker "I'm Alive" that could have found its place on the last Avenged Sevenfold album. The musically traditional melodic thrash monster "The Giant" with its almost rap-like vocals in the verses versus a melodic and hypnotizing chorus is also a great potential single output and a quite interesting track. This modern catchiness includes even the weirder tracks like the numb groove rocker "The Constant" that is filled with subtle changes and many musical details that grow over and over after a first impression of a rather mellow kind. Many fans may now be afraid when I compare Anthrax to those bands but this mixture of modern radio friendly elements, commercial rock and roll approaches and some gripping thrash metal parts have distinguished the sound of this band for years now but this time they execute it even better than before with more gripping riffs, more memorable choruses and more courage to head for the unexpected even if this might not please to every fan out there.
A third point I liked about the album are the orchestral interludes that are short and sweet but fit to the songs surrounding them and add a new touch and influence to the sound of Anthrax. Even though the band sounds quite diversified and slightly progressive on some tracks, they could though have worked even more with those ideas and might create some even more epic experiments for an upcoming record if they don't split apart once again.
Even though there are a couple of weaker tracks like the too generic opening thrash track "Earth On Hell" that might though be worshipped by the more conservative fans or the pointless and slightly overlong album closer "Revolution Screams" (the hidden Refused cover "New Noise" (a Swedish hardcore punk band as far as I am informed) sounds much more energizing, diversified and has some modern approaches that make me think of early Linkin Park), this record is a stunning comeback for the metal legend and more than just a positive surprise. The album is easily in my personal top ten of the year and a relief after several weaker releases and eight years that have though been worth the wait after all. Overall, I really like this record and think that there is still more to come from this band once again.
I would though be surprised if the popular reception of this record was positive as Morbid Angel got recently heavily bashed for their modern sound influences on their latest output that may be comparable to the new album of Anthrax with the exception that this one hear is less radical. That's why I would like warn you and suggest you to check this album out with an open mind for modern metal music before you might blindly buy it instead of hoping for a time warp back to the late eighties.
This album is being touted as Joey Belladonna’s triumphant return to the Anthrax vocal helm. Also, based on the singles that have been released, “The Devil You Know” and “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t”, the album seems to be being promoted as a return to the roots of Anthrax, namely thrash.
In listening to the album, it begins promisingly enough. (Not including the wasted 1:40 for the intro. GET TO THE MUSIC ALREADY!) “Earth on Hell” and the two singles begin the album. We already know about how good the two singles are, especially “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t”. “Earth on Hell” is a pretty heavy thrasher in the vein of old school Anthrax, with a nice tritone-based riff beginning the song.
However, after the first three songs, the album starts to go a bit south. They have shown that they are capable of some nice thrash in the modern day. But it was too good to be true. Once “It’s Alive” comes around, the thrash comes in only through a handful of riffs. Other than that, it’s the same hard rock-tinged Anthrax that we’ve come to expect from the John Bush-fronted edition of the band.
That’s not to say that this is a bad thing. These songs, despite sounding like the John Bush era band, still sound inspired, which is really more than one could say about some of the other efforts on, say, “We’ve Come for You All”.
Speaking of inspiration, it clearly does show in the playing and riffing—even the hard rock riffing—as a direct influence of the resurrection of Belladonna. So how are his vocals? They’re very good. They don’t have the same youthfulness of the Belladonna of old. (Of course it wouldn’t, it’s been 21 years!) Belladonna, though, still sounds like he’s having a blast singing these songs. The comparison I kept going back to, though, was Marco Hietala from Nightwish and Tarot. On this record, there are many points where he sounds JUST like Marco. I definitely enjoy his return and look forward to another album with him at the helm.
A juicy surprise comes in the form of the hidden track. At 11:07, a cover of “New Noise” by Refused starts. I’m not going to lie, I was surprised to hear that Anthrax would cover this. It’s a very well-done cover. Belladonna’s vocals, though, don’t quite fit the song as the original Refused vocalist’s did. I still enjoyed the cover.
All in all, this album, like Metallica’s so-called return to form, “Death Magnetic”, is a step in the right direction. However, it’s not the full return to form that some might expect.
After the astonishing Anthrax performance in Moscow in 2010 I was 100% sure that they are back in good shape after years of... well, let's say, uncertainty. So I was really looking forward to the release of this album. But when I finally managed to listen to it, I felt confused and disappointed... After a while I understood that the record is actually good and WAY better than any of their 90s stuff.
First of all, it's metal. Neither grunge nor alternative, but heavy goddamn metal. So it's definitely pleasing for the fans of classic Anthrax, and I'm one of them (I spin my Among the Living LP quite often, huh). But... the real problem with this record is it's tempo. Most of the songs are mid-paced, and that makes them quite boring. The second problem is kinda connected with the first one - some songs are too stretched. I have nothing against a 6- or even a 20-minute track as long as it really keeps the listener's attention, but here... hell, it's the same trouble that Metallica had on their 2008 record (IMHO).
On the other hand, we have wonderful Joey Belladonna singing, his performance is probably the best part of the album. Another positive thing is the variety - they inserted some unusual sounds here and there (bells, for example). Also the album contains some killer riffs (Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't is one example) - however, they are often blended with quite bleak ones, and that makes them less "tasty". Once these guys were gods of the riff - when I was hearing those glimpses of good old Anthrax, I remembered songs like N.F.L. and sighed.
So, what's the summary? I was expecting killer Anthrax-brand thrash and instead I got a good heavy metal album, which is perfectly recorded but a bit too long, a bit too slow and has not so many remarkable hits. Still it gave me hope. Hope for more classic albums from this band which I was about to give up on, say, 7 years ago.
P.S.: Russian edition of the album (which I listened to) has a separate bonus track New Noise (Refused cover), but I believe that the international edition has this track as well - only as a hidden one.
Much like the rest of the 'Big Four' (whether you subscribe to that idiom or not), Anthrax took quite a beating throughout the 90s, mutating their thrash sound to remain current with the perceived modernization of 'cool'. In other words, bigger and friendly rock radio chorus parts, traces of nu-metal replacing a lot of the band's meaty NY riffing, and a lot more 'diversification'. I'm going to level with you: I loathed John Bush as a replacement for Joey Belladonna to begin with, and Dan Nelson even more so. Not because John Bush is bad, mind you, but his deeper, smokey style was (and remains) such a far better fit to Armored Saint. Outside of "Only" and a small handful of other tracks, his tenure with the band was admittedly terrible.
When they finally got their shit together and brought Belladonna back into the lineup, I admit to being excited, but also skeptical of what would manifest on the studio side. The drama was over, at last. It's almost like the two camps were halves of a sandwich: slap them together and they make for a delightful meal, but separate them and your tummy remains unfulfilled. So I had hoped that this next lunch would return the New Yorkers to the level of writing that made records like Among the Living and Persistence of Time such fun standouts in the Golden Age of the genre. And then I heard some of the 'Big Four' live performances...and Belladonna sounded atrocious on much of the material. So, yes, I feared greatly for Worship Music, not only because of the awful (and not even remotely as profound as the band likely thinks) album title and pretty bland looking song titles and lyrics, but because I was worried about the vocals falling apart.
I'm very happy to report, then, that Joey is actually in quite good form here. He sounds almost as if he never left Anthrax, and what's more, the band's continued application of the big rock chorus allows him to stretch his chords even further (for better or worse). Worship Music is pretty much 65% Persistence of Time-era Anthrax, 25% modernized groove metal, and 10% safe to bring home to momma hard rock; and even though this is probably not the ideal revenge or 'comeback' effort, I admit that it's about the best I could have hoped for. The album is about 56 minutes of material (more songs than initially speculated), and although the last 11 minutes should have been snipped entirely, namely the shitty groove-rock song "The Constant", and the wholly underwhelming "Revolution Screams", it's quite consistently entertaining throughout, even with the baggage of the 90s and earlier 21st century in tow.
The strong points: Belladonna's vocals, which I mentioned, and the solid, pumping bass guitar performance by Frank Bello. Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano are also on fire here, but more for the taut and meaty tone and percussive riffing than for stepping up past their prior output. Tunes like "Earth on Hell" and the singles "The Devil You Know" and "Fight 'Em Til You Can't" were wisely placed at the fore of the album; and though I don't quite care for "Devil", which sounds like "Caught in a Mosh" made for prime time radio airplay; the other two are quite exciting with their balance of pulverizing muted speed and Belladonna's highly melodic arsenal. Others that stand out are "The Giant", despite the slightly corny lyrical scheme, and the bluesy, burning swagger of "Judas Priest", despite the oddity of its title and the far too serious seeming lyrics (for Anthrax, at least). In general, though, the first 40 minutes of the record are pretty much what we might have wanted (and deserved) as a follow up to Persistence of Time. If this had been dropped in, say, 1995 or 96, I think a lot of faith would have been restored.
So, yet another decent comeback from one of the 'contenders' in the US scene. Three for Four isn't bad (I enjoyed Death Magnetic and Endgame but am still waiting for a post-Seasons Slayer record with more than 1-2 good tracks on it). With its modern, bolstered production and largely even balance of melody and aggression, it's quite possible that Worship Music will place the old timers back in the graces of many who have turned their backs and lost interest. Mind you, anyone who completely hates the notion of Anthrax writing choruses in the vein of popular hard rock or punk is probably going to find a chunk of the album irritating. They haven't just written a retro 'return to form' record here. But there's enough of that authentic Anthrax to break out the tight jeans, hi-tops and that 'Not Man' tee you've been embarrassed about for the past 21 years.
Most will know the story behind Worship Music. It basically was the album they recorded with Dan Nelson, you know, Mr. Anselmo imitator Nr.1. But in the end we have the first regular full length studio album with Joey Belladonna since 1990’s Persistence of time. With a release such as this we can ask ourselves two questions: As an entity on its own, is the album worthwhile? And secondly, is it a great Anthrax album?
On its own we have a fascinating, dynamic, diverse and mature metal album. There’s no style taking the upper hand here since musically it’s all over the place. Could be a mess but they’ve kept it in the family. We have a few sparse moments referring to the thrash of old happening in Earth on Hell, Fight 'Em Til You Can't and The Giant. But most of the time it’s mid paced metal, groovy riffs and catchy chorusses. I’m Alive is a metal sing-a-long which could suit probably any band with an old school metal vocalist. It’s entertaining. ‘Judas Priest’ is a bit of a mess melodically and compositionally. It feels like it’s all over the place and has some nice heavy metal details but it’s not a song that’ll make history. A song that will make history is the tragic ‘In The End’. It’s epic, melodic and it will move you.
Worst moment on the album is ‘Crawl’. This has hardly anything to do with metal and is too cheesy to be true. A radio friendly emo tune which ought to be forgotten quickly. ‘The Constant’ has trouble make decisions. A Pantera clone in the verses or light-thrash? Not a bad song but since it has a hard time picking sides it can’t entirely convince the listener. So all in all it’s a rather messy album but has enough catchy moments and good tunes to be considered a fun release.
As an anthrax release we’re faced with a bigger problem. This is NOT an album that’ll bring back the days of Among The Living nor Persistence of Time. The presence of Joey after all this time almost feels coincidental as this album in a way sounds like a natural follow up to WCFYA with only a few hints to the old days.
I played Among & State out loud in my car today and immediately played this album afterwards. When you do it like that it’s like listening to another band with the exception of one song: Fight 'Em Til You Can't. That’s about the only song which has that eighties Thrax vibe. Others might mention ‘The Giant’ but that’s mostly because the pace is slightly higher than the rest of the album. When playing The Giant right after ‘Finale’ from State of Euphoria it becomes obvious it’s more of a groove metal song on acid than old thrash. But I must say, it’s a very enjoyable tune. Since I have my fair share of Bushthrax songs I really enjoy, this can’t be a complaint. ‘The Constant ’ tries to combine Bushthrax grooves with Joey-thrash and results in a somewhat contorted faceless composition which fortunately has a few good riffs in the faster parts and memorable vocal lines to keep one entertained. ‘Earth on Hell’ feels like a follow up mixture of What doesn’t Die and Black Dahlia from the previous album and with Joey on vocals it feels like all era’s of Anthrax coming together into one song. Highly enjoyable!
Another highlight is the epic ‘In the End’. It’s not a thrash epic like Who Cares Wins or The Horror Of It All but a mostly slow and pounding metal tune with a melancholic atmosphere really suiting the autumn weather we’re already experiencing. This is a daring track which will surely convince a lot of metal heads including non-Anthrax fans. It’s just too good to ignore.
In a way Worship Music finally reveals what WCFYA would’ve sounded like if Joey had returned earlier but fortunately adds some extra’s like Fight ‘Em, Earth on Hell and The Giant to please fans of old as well. One could say they might be making the same mistake as Kiss on their Psycho Circus album, namely trying to please everyone but time will tell how the metal community will look back on Worship Music in a few years.